This is part of our series, "Meet the Experts". In this series of posts, we interview a wide variety of men and women involved in every aspect of the field of maternal health. Today, we welcome Candy Beers-Kim, a Pediatric Sleep Consultant.
While there are many toddlers out there that can go to bed without a fuss and can sleep happily until morning, there are quite a few others who don’t. These toddlers try to negotiate, stall or delay every second they can before they actually fall asleep. If you’re struggling with your toddler’s bedtime process, these five tips will help create peace and even make you enjoy bedtime. Tip #1: The day affects the night:
If your toddler is hard to settle for bedtime or wakes up often during the night, their day may be the cause. Is he sleeping too much during the day? Try cutting back how long he's napping or you may need to drop the nap altogether (as long as he is at least 3 years old). Another reason can be he is not sleeping enough during the day? An overtired toddler can find it struggle falling asleep and staying asleep at night, so it's important that they get enough rest during the day. Is he getting enough attention during the day? Toddlers need a certain amount of attention and if they're not getting it during the day they have trouble letting go of the individualized attention they suddenly have as you are trying to put them to bed at night.
Tip #2: Teach your child what is expected of them:
It would be amazing for our little love bugs to just instantly obey us as we tell them to do something, but 9 times out of 10 their minds aren’t even grasping the idea of what you are trying to communicate to them. Be clear, precise, and fun. Think about it as they see it. Go through the bedtime routine as simple and fun as you possibly can. Get them excited about bedtime and teach them exactly what is expected of them during the night so there are no questions to be asked.
Tip #3: Routine, routine, routine:
I can’t say it enough. Routine is fundamental in creating a great sleeper. Kids love it and thrive on it. A nightly bedtime routine helps your child learn what is expected of them and their body. It allows their body to wine down and get sleepy. A solid routine during bedtime also creates a happy and enjoyable feeling for a child’s sleeping environment. It gives them security and sense of ownership.
Not every child has the same bedtime routine. But in general, your routine should include all the things that your child needs to do before going to sleep, including brushing teeth, taking a bath, putting on their pajamas, and having a snack or glass of water. Your child may want to be read to, talk about the day, or be told a story. Whatever you choose to do, keep the routine short (30 minutes or less) and be firm about ending it when it's time to sleep. No negotiating.
Tip #5: Let them give their opinion:
Eliminate the power struggle that often comes while you are trying to get your toddler to bed. Calm down, breathe and give them the opportunity to provide an opinion. You are the parent and you set the rules and the time that your toddler goes to sleep. But, giving options eliminates a full on power struggle and will make your bedtime routine much more enjoyable (for both you). Ask them if they would like to choose which pajamas they would like to wear? Which two books would you like to read tonight? Or what stuffed animal would you like to sleep with? These opportunities to allow them to make their own decisions, creates confidence and lowers the bedtime battles.
Tip #5: Give them praise:
Children need to receive words of affirmation after obeying things you have told them to do. Praise them for a job well done! Give them big hugs and tell them how cozy they looked while sleeping that night. Most parents use a sticker chart to help reward their child. Once they have received a certain amount of stickers, they receive a special surprise. Giving your child an opportunity to see their progress can help continue the process and get them excited to sleep in their bed without a huff and a puff.
About the Author: